Family & Relationships

10 Legal Issues Parents Don't Expect

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Many parents might wonder why they would ever need legal assistance themselves, much less for their children. But the truth is, even if you raised the perfect child who never got into a bit of trouble, there’s a good chance you might someday have a legal need related to your child.

Legal situations regarding your children can occur when you least expect them.

Potential Legal Issues Facing Children

1. Playground and sports injuries

It seems children no sooner learn to walk before they're already ready to run, play, swing, race, throw and tackle. While playgrounds and school sports are among a child’s best memories, they can be a source of worry for parents. And according to Stanford Children's Hospital, organized sports lead to around 3.5 million injuries per year among children and teens.

2. School discipline

As your children enter school, it will be helpful to know the school’s expectations and policies. School discipline procedures and offenses are laid out in the materials of each school district or private school.

Bullying can be physical, verbal or social. It can happen at school, on the playground, on the school bus, in the neighborhood or over the internet. The issue of bullying has become so important that all states have a law or policy in place that addresses bullying.

3. Driving

Depending upon your state’s laws, a minor’s ability to obtain a driver’s license (permit, intermediate or full) can be negatively impacted as a result of moving violations, accidents and even school grades and attendance. High-risk situations should be monitored and limited, like learning to drive at night and driving with other teenage passengers in order to keep everyone safe.

4. Online safety

Children are using computers more and more at school and home, and an adult cannot always be on hand to monitor their browsing or protect their privacy. Whether you’re concerned about their privacy or exposure to objectionable content or want to protect them from harassment and harmful encounters, there are actionable steps you can take.

5. Credit cards

One of the first discoveries your child might make once they turn 18 is the power of plastic. Credit cards can be convenient and serve as a safety net in an emergency, such as paying for an unexpected car repair. In addition, building a credit history is an important part of financial health. Having no credit history can be almost as difficult as having a low credit score.

On the other hand, credit cards can be tempting to use for impulse buys, which can lead to uncontrollable spending and lead to legal and financial matters when your child gets older.

6. Signing their first lease

At some point, your child will move out. Whether it’s their first apartment or a house off campus, getting a new place to live usually means getting roommates. While having a roommate makes it more financially feasible to live on their own, it can get complicated. Make sure your child knows how to legally protect themselves before they live with others.

7. Drinking

Growing up and moving out can be exciting for many young adults; for others, the experience may involve harmful activities such as illegal drug use or underage drinking. And data indicates that as much as 33% of college students binge drink per month.

8. Juvenile crime

Whether it’s peer pressure, a need to push limits, outright defiance or false accusation, sometimes even “good kids” end up in trouble with the law. And parents who believed “it would never happen to my kid” find themselves bailing their child out of jail, appearing in court or hiring attorneys to clear a record.

9. Finances

There may come a time where you or your child are having a hard time paying off their student loans. This is a common problem that affects 44.7 million Americans, according to the Federal Reserve. If this happens, it may be good to seek the advice of an attorney on how to refinance both the loans and other debt.

10. Legal documents

As your children grow up, there are a few documents you’ll want to have in place. Consider a custodial authority consent form if you’re traveling and having a friend or family member watch your child. This will allow things like medical treatment in case of emergency. See what other documents we suggest in our guidebook.